The new community pharmacy Hepatitis C service has launched today (1 September), after its initial launch date was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The service, which will be integrated into the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework, aims to increase levels of testing for Hepatitis C antibodies among people who inject drugs who are not engaged in community drug and alcohol treatment services.
The advanced service is part of NHS England and NHS Improvement’s national programme, which is working to eliminate Hepatitis C virus as a major public health threat by 2025
For offering the new service, pharmacy teams in England will be paid £36 for each test administered, which can be claimed monthly via the MYS portal.
The Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee (PSNC) said that any pharmacy that meets the criteria may offer the testing service, however ‘it will be of most interest to contractors that provide a locally commissioned needle and syringe programme service, with a sufficient number of clients, to make the investment in provision of the service worthwhile’.
The programme is due to run until 31 March 2022, after which a review will be undertaken to determine how effective it has been in testing difficult-to-reach patients. If the service is deemed successful, it may be extended into 2022/23.
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at PSNC, said: ‘The commissioning of this new advanced service provides an excellent opportunity for the sector to participate in an incredibly important national and global public health initiative to eliminate Hep C virus and the harm it causes to so many people in our society.
‘In the UK, those at highest risk of contracting HCV are people who inject drugs and community pharmacy is the healthcare provider with the best access to that group of people. The commissioning of this service underlines the importance of the access to healthcare that is provided through the community pharmacy network.
He added: ‘Pharmacy contractors who provide a needle and syringe programme to a significant number of clients will be best placed to provide this service and to ensure its provision will also work from an economic perspective.’